Addressing the Unique Needs of American Converts to Islam
What is a Feeling Muslim Welcoming Space?
A Feeling Muslim Welcoming Space is a safe, inviting, non-judgmental, and nurturing environment for new, growing, lifelong Muslims, and those who would like to know more to come together, share experiences, support one another, learn, and grow in the faith. These Welcoming Spaces are being developed based on the findings of the study, Feeling Muslim: An Intimate Portrait of Identity Cultivation among American Female Converts to Islam. One of the questions Karla asked was, "What do you think Muslim communities around the United States could do to help new converts to Islam feel Muslim?"
Jamie had the following advice to offer:
"I think classes are very important especially for learning prayers. I had no support with this for a long time before I got to know a community here and had to rely on the internet and books at first which was extremely confusing. I also think just being welcoming, friendly and concerned about converts. Many converts feel very lonely and have lost friends, family and relationships so making new friends who can help encourage them as a Muslim is important. Don't make converts feel that becoming Muslim means adopting Middle Eastern or South Asian culture or that their American or Western culture is somehow wrong or un-Islamic."
Another respondent, Maria, says:
"Make us feel more included, don't berate us if we take time to make changes to our appearance, life style, etc."
These are just 2 of the 257 responses to that question!
Every masjid should be a Welcoming Space for everyone, whether a lifelong Muslim, a convert to Islam, a Muslim struggling with the faith, or a visitor, but unfortunately, that isn't always the case. In the study, when converts were asked about factors that hindered their feelings of Muslimness, some of their responses were heartbreaking.
"I think that I started to feel not Muslim when I noticed the differential treatment I received in the mosque. All of the advice regarding nail polish, shaving, length of skirts, pants, shirt sleeves. It became very depressing because I felt as though I didn't measure up and wasn't being seen as an equal. I was being judged. Also the fact that I was still married and hadn't gotten my husband to visit the Mosque or be introduced to any of my Muslim friends. I felt like the Muslim community was beginning to reject me even more for being married to a non Muslim. My Muslimness was affirmed by my convert friends."
Nicole goes on to say:
"I feel like an outsider and a charity case. Like people in the community want to help me but only to get their own good deeds and that they don't actually want to be my friend. At the same time, I feel like whether for cultural reasons more than religious reasons or whatever else, I will never be fully accepted. They are pretty clear about this sometimes. I think as someone who didn't grow up Muslim, culture and religion are very separate identities to me whereas to many of the people I know who were raised Muslim, they seem to go hand in hand. Since I can never change where I was born or how I was raised, it's like I will never be Muslim in the way they socially construct that identity using both culture and religion."
While Rabia points out:
"There were many outside influences that hindered my feelings of Muslimness. Unfortunately, the Muslim community is one of the biggest reasons. After coming to Islam I encountered judgement and alienation like never before and it was all from fellow brothers and sisters. I came across many people who judged based on their culture, and who actually thought reverts were not real Muslims and most only came to Islam in order to marry a Muslim partner. The first few years after reverting were very disappointing in terms of feeling welcomed and part of the ummah. My feelings of Muslimness developed in myself after isolating myself."
These are just a few of the 257 responses given by American female converts to Islam and there are many more just like them.
At Feeling Muslim we are dedicated to ensuring that every American convert to Islam has access to a Welcoming Space in a masjid. This is a community-building initiative that is meant to strengthen Muslim communities....unite where there is division....and do it all for the pleasure of Allah with the utmost Love, Mercy, Care, and Respect.
How can Feeling Muslim help?:
1. By presenting the findings of the Feeling Muslim study to Muslim communities across the U.S.;
2. Consulting with community leaders and masajid about the unique needs of their communities;
3. Training local Feeling Muslim teams to handle the diverse needs of American converts to Islam with great care;
4. Developing individualized programming and gradually implementing a Feeling Muslim Welcoming Space for converts that meets each community's unique needs;
5. Refining the programming to meet the growing needs of each community through time;
6. Providing follow-up resources directly from Feeling Muslim to every community that commits to designating a Feeling Muslim Welcoming Space;
7. and Offering educational, spiritual, emotional, social, and financial support and services to converts throughout the United States.
How is Feeling Muslim able to do this?:
Through the generous donations of folks all over the world who want to do whatever they can to support American converts to Islam through every stage of their journey. Monetary donations are always welcome and so are your services! If you have a service to offer, we are more than happy to hear about it. Please contact us by filling out the form on the 'Reach Out!' page, inshaAllah.